Monday, July 17, 2006

I Love This Guy

Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps is one of my absolute favorite products in the whole wide world. It is a truly great soap, it’s completely entertaining and, secretly, it is expression manifest for my closeted inner hippie.

I was first turned on to this bubbly goodness 20 years ago, or so, when dad floated the Grand Canyon and was packing his stuff for the trip. Across the yard was strewn the raft, paddles, life jackets and what looked like dozens of waterproof boxes full of repellents, sun screens, food stuffs, sleeping gear, clothing items, toiletries, air pumps and a huge assortment of other things. The lawn looked like the third floor of Gart Brothers. That’s when I saw my first bottle of Dr. Bronner’s laying there between the pile of carabineers and the guitar Dad bought for $5 at a garage sale for singing around the campfire (you gotta love it.)

While first intrigued by its liquidy amberness, I snapped open the lid and was suddenly intoxicated by its stimulating peppermint aroma, then was quickly distracted and captivated by the blue label with tons of little bitty white print on the bottle. What was this? A manifesto? Is this guy a satan worshiper? Since this was happening at about the same time that Aunt Peggy had emphatically told me that Proctor and Gamble was a communist, God-hating company with a secret agenda to topple our Democratic society, (so we shouldn’t buy or use Zest, Scope, Pepto-Bismal or about 100 other items that represented 99% of what we had in our medicine cabinet), I was on heightened alert for the sly marketing tactics of other pinko corporations who wanted to destroy my rights and freedoms with the money they earned from selling me Tampex and Crest toothpaste.

But after reading a few lines of the doctrine on the label I decided Dr. Bronner’s wasn’t so much of an evil communist as he was the Mayor of Weirdsville, or its sister city Boulder. In addition to his incomprehensive ramblings, I was mighty impressed with his liberal use of exclamation marks and capital letters.

“Absolute cleanliness is Godliness. Teach the moral ABC that unites all mankind, free, instantly 6 billion strong and we’re All One. The Whole World is our country, our Fatherland, because all mankind are born its Citizens! We’re all Brothers and Sisters because One, ever-loving Eternal Father is our only God and All-One God-Faith reunites God’s legion! LISTEN CHILDREN ETERNAL FATHER ETERNAL ONE!”


Come again?

These first five sentences totally lost me and they were only the first few words of (what I found out later to be) over 30,000 words on this little bitty bottle of pepperminty stuff! Pure crazy.

Since I knew there was absolutely no way that Dad was supporting the tree-hugger agenda I quizzed him about why he had this soap and found out it was because it is biodegradable and river-friendly. Made sense.

While Dad was on his float trip I investigated this Dr. Bronner oddity and found out all sorts of interesting things. Emanuel Bronner (1908-1997) was a third generation master soap maker from an orthodox Jewish family in Germany. He rebelled against his family’s soap business for some reason that I’ve since forgotten and he came to the United States in the 1920s. Later, his parents and most of his family died in the Holocaust. Dr. Bronner initially worked for various U.S. soap companies but was greatly disturbed by the trend toward using un-natural, synthetic ingredients, so he struck out on his own in the 1940s with his all-natural formula. His ecologically friendly soaps and message of peace resonated with the counter-culture of the ‘60s and he became an icon of the time. He was a hippie long before there were such things.

It was never very clear to me where he developed his manifesto thinking but because writing this entry has stirred up this old curiosity, I checked out their website. There it said that Dr. Bronner’s “essential vision and philosophy were born out of the fate of his family and the Holocaust, and are emphatic that we are all children of the same divine source: people must realize that we are “All-One” and that the prophets and spiritual giants of the world’s various faith traditions all realized and said this.” I did laugh out loud when I read a little bit further down on the web site, “While we disagree with Dr. Bronner on some idiosyncrasies in his philosophy, we revere him for his efforts to unite humanity…” Read, “We can’t sign off on the crazy talk.”

When Dad returned from the Grand Canyon he let me use some of the Dr. Bronner’s he had left and I was HOOKED. It must be the all-natural hemp oils, or something, but I’ve been addicted to Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps since that day. I love the way it invigorates and tingles, smells so fresh, and rinses so perfectly squeaky clean. Oh, I’ve tried other soaps and for a long time I was swayed by Safeguard (red alert – pun intended – Safeguard is another product of the evil Proctor and Gamble empire) but ultimately it was too harsh. I’ve tried moisturized soaps, soaps that smell like fruit or flowers or spring breezes, expensive French-milled soaps, shower gels, exotic oils soaps – and I eventually give them up every time.

Because really there is nothing better than being Dr. Bronner’s Magic Soaps clean. Brain washed? Maybe? Body washed? Absolutely.

If you make it through the first 27,000 words on the label, you'll read that the soap is recommended not only for body washing but for a host of other things too -- you can use it for shampoo, laundry detergent, insect repellent, to clear congestion and as toothpaste. Ummm.... no.

Perhaps most importantly, my experience with Dr. Bronner’s soap, low those many years ago, was the spark that ignited a small but brightly burning curiosity within me about the mystical, cultish, completely scary ideologies of the free spirits, hippies and other "enlightend" beings that made up the "New Age". More about my life as a hippie will be covered in the next Dotopotamus entry.

Until then, I’m signing off in the words of Dr. E. H. Bronner: “We are all Brothers and Sisters and we should take care of each other and spaceship Earth!” Peace, man.


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